Surge protection for EV charging infrastructure

Why The Electric Vehicle (EV) Infrastructure Needs Surge Protection

Getting more people into electric vehicles is a major component of the Biden administration’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According the US Department of Energy, the U.S. has over 44,000 public charging stations for battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs), with over 180,000 charging ports. 1However, the government’s $2 trillion infrastructure bill calls for a whopping 500,000 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations by 2030.

That’s an ambitious goal, given that over 30 percent of charging stations reside in one state—California, which leads the nation in EV sales. Other states with strong EV sales include Florida, Texas, and Washington.2

Big hopes for EV boom

While the EV revolution has been slow to arrive in other parts of the nation, experts predict a rapid increase in BEVs and PHEVs sales as prices gradually fall and major manufacturers, including Ford and General Motors, ramp up production to catch industry leader Tesla. In 2020, BEVs and PHEVs represented slightly more than 2% of vehicle sales in the United States, totaling just over 295,000 vehicles. 3In order for EV adoption to occur at desired levels, the EV charging infrastructure must expand—and fast.

EV chargers exposed to the elements

However long it takes for the EV infrastructure to roll out, one thing is clear: public EV charging technology will be installed outdoors where it will be vulnerable to the elements. Like any sensitive electrical equipment, these EV chargers will require surge protection. A power surge caused by direct or indirect lighting strikes, as well as voltage fluctuations within the power grid, can render EV charging ports useless. Surge protectors located at the main panel and at each charger will safely send any over-voltage to ground before it can wreak havoc on delicate circuitry.

A trio of EV charger types

There are three types of EV chargers currently available: Level 1, Level 2 and DC fast chargers. Level 1 and Level 2 chargers provide alternating current. Level 1 chargers use a regular 110-V outlet, the same as a regular household plug, while Level 2 chargers use a 240-V outlet, the kind your clothes dryers or air conditioners plug into. In both cases, the vehicle converts the AC input to DC.

It’s no surprise that it takes a long time to charge a BEV with a Level 1 charger, up to 6 miles of charge per hour. This is why Level 1 charges work best for home use where drivers can charge overnight. By comparison, a Level 2 charger can provide between 10 – 60 miles of charge per hour. They are the most common type found at public charging stations in residential and commercial locations, such as apartments, shopping malls and parking garages.

The speed kings of EV stations, however, are DC fast chargers (DCFC) which send direct current into a vehicle’s battery without the vehicle having to convert it. DCFCs use a 480-V outlet and provide between 24 and 90 miles of charge in 20 minutes.4

Preserving ROI and driver trust

The cost of EV technology can vary significantly, but it gets very pricy at the upper end. These chargers can go from the most basic plug-in models to intelligent chargers with access control, point of sale capabilities, and advanced diagnostics. Level 1 chargers can range between $300 and $1,500, Level 2 chargers $400 to $6,500, and DCFCs between $10,000 and $40,000.5

Protecting this sophisticated equipment is not only a matter of ROI. In order to convince large numbers of drivers to switch to electric vehicles, they will need to know that charging stations not only will be accessible, but also reliable. Downtime due to maintenance is expensive and will erode drivers’ confidence in the technology. Protecting EV chargers from damage and downtime adds to their longevity and help ensure they will be in service when drivers need them most.

Electrical equipment needs protection

No matter how an electrical car is actually charged—whether using an AC or DC charger—the controller for the charger itself is an electronic device and can be damaged by power surges and spikes. This, in turn, can harm the BEV itself if the controller is faulty.

The good news is that DITEK’S Zeus Series of surge protective devices (SPD’s) provide transient voltage surge protection for commercial and industrial electrical systems in the most demanding environments. The Zeus series is available in a wide range of voltage configurations, including the D50, D100, D200, and D300 Series. Each model utilizes the latest in surge protection technology to provide maximum performance and protection.

Because the national EV infrastructure is essentially still in its infancy, reliability is going to be essential in order to avoid the worst-case scenario of drivers pulling up to a charging station only to find it out of service, with the driver having no other option nearby to charge his or her vehicle.

When the EV infrastructure emerges as predicted, the DITEK Zeus Series is poised to play a vital role in keeping EV chargers powered up and operational.

Click here to learn more about DITEK’s AC Power Industrial Protection, including the Zeus Series.